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China Overtakes Greece as Largest Commercial Fleet

china cosco fleet
China has invested in its global commercial fleet, overtaking Greece in first place in the world in terms of gross tonnage. credit: wikimedia commons / maasvlakte cc by 2.0        

China has overtaken Greece as the largest commercial fleet in the world in terms of gross tonnage in shipping capacity.

Greece has held the title with its impressive shipped tonnage since 2014, and while it still holds first place in terms of deadweight shipped tonnage, measuring the total weight a ship can carry, China’s fleet is growing.

China’s Growing Fleet

Greece is a maritime nation by tradition, and the industry is the country’s first form of employment even before tourism. China also has a history of trade, and commercial growth doesn’t come as a surprise.

According to Clarksons Research, which provides shipping data and intelligence, the fleet of Chinese shipowners has reached 249.2 million gross tonnage, accounting for 15.9 percent of the global market trade, or about $180 billion in value.

The country has greatly invested in cargo shipping and shipbuilding, especially during the pandemic. China’s cargo shipping companies have recently been investing much in shipbuilding and buying and selling second-hand vessels in order to deal with nearly double the orders that the Greek fleet deals with on a regular basis.

Greece’s Global Fleet

Meanwhile, the Greek-owned merchant fleet accounted for fifty-nine percent of the European Union (EU)-controlled fleet in 2022 with its 249 million gross tonnage. The Greek shipowners’ fleet accounts for a global market share of 15.8 percent and is valued at around $163 billion. It is also newer than the global average. Investment has mostly gone towards newer ships with a special regard towards green and energy-efficient ships.

Since becoming the greatest shipping fleet in the world in 2014, it has nearly doubled its capacity, expanding most during and after COVID. It transports cargo with third countries, making use of more than ninety-eight percent of its fleet capacity. It is the world’s largest cross trader. Almost a third of the Greek fleet has been built up since 2013, and it has been made a global power in terms of shipping capacity.

Close behind is Japan coming in third with a fleet of 181 million gross tonnage capacity. South Korea and the United States are both in fourth place with around sixty-six million gross tonnage. Overall, Asia’s total gross tonnage in shipping overtook that of Europe in 2019.

Melina Travlos, who recently became the first female president of USG, said that in the volatile global environment, “shipping has been functioning as a beacon of stability, responding to the unprecedented conditions we have been facing in the last two years due to the international health crisis, as well as due to the geopolitical crisis of recent months in Europe.”

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